cookie throwdown: bouchon boxed mix vs. cookbook.

chocolate chip cookie throwdown.

I did something exceedingly stupid the other day: I purchased food products at Williams Sonoma. Not spices or sprinkles, mind you, which I could easily play off as “necessary” or “practical,” oh no. Instead, I walked out of that hallowed place with two things I had no need for: a box of Bouchon Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix and some Vanilla Wafer Butter. I’ve turned the former into an experiment which we’ll be discussing today; the latter I refuse to discuss at all. Still ashamed.

bouchon cookie mix

Let’s talk about these high-end instant things you can get at places like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table, among others: have you ever given into that particular urge? Why or why not? You know you’ve thought about it, because we all have, if even for a fleeting moment, considered picking up that Sprinkles Cupcake mix or Ebelskiver batter, just to see what it’s like. Is it really easier? Less messy? Better than you could produce from scratch? If the Bouchon box cookies are any indication, the answer to all three of those questions is no.

To justify the $20 cost for what ultimately amounted to about 16 cookies (seriously), I decided to run an experiment between the box mix and the recipe for the exact same cookies in the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. Although it’s impossible to measure the elements in the mix individually, given the yields listed on each as well as the control amounts of butter and egg, they very much are intended to be the same recipe. Because this was an experiment, I altered nothing about either recipe, preparation included. I even measured out eggs by volume, which is something I swore never to do. Ever. But I did that for you, and in the name of science.

fig. 1: the bouchon boxed mix cookie.

fig. 1: the Bouchon boxed mix cookie.

The only thing I did not do was use European butter as suggested, because, realism.

 The boxed mix gives you three packets: flour/leaveners packet, sugars/vanilla packet, and chocolate chips/chunks packet.  Since I couldn’t break out each component which was already packaged, I compared what I could, given that the yields matched from book to box. The differences:

cookie throwdown chart

Beyond that, there are differences in preparation. Predictably, the steps in the Bouchon cookbook are slightly more detailed than on the box; that’s acceptable, because someone with the cookbook is prepared to make a true “from scratch” cookie, and you have to assume that someone purchasing $20 box chocolate chip cookie mix isn’t in it for the craft of it; they want the end result, and they want it now. I’ll chalk up not sifting the chocolate to remove excess powder to that theory as well, though one could argue that if it does make for a better cookie, and you want a repeat customer, you would tell them to sift, or at least make it optional.

I don’t understand, however, the difference in ingredient quantities and oven temperature. baking something at 325˚F for 16-18 minutes versus 375˚F for 12-14 minutes will give you very different results, especially with chocolate chip cookies, which – in my experience – both spread and puff based on how high and for how long you cook them. And while I understand that 1 egg (boxed mix) versus 3 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons (cookbook, and for me, that came out to a little over one egg) is negotiable, I think 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) versus 5.9 ounces (a smidge under 12 tablespoons, or 1 1/2 sticks) would have enough of an effect on the end result to warrant using the latter, if all other dry quantities are the same. Just to see what’s what with the cooking times and temperatures, I baked half of these at 325˚F and half at 375˚F to see which yielded a better cookie.

fig. 2: the bouchon cookbook cookies, baked at 375˚F (left) and 325˚F (right).

fig. 2: the Bouchon cookbook cookies, baked at 375˚F (left) and 325˚F (right).

The Results:

So which is the better cookie? I’m thrilled you asked, and I’m equally thrilled to tell you that you can keep your $20, if you’re willing to do a bit of measuring. Truly, that’s the only extra work in this, because you’re still creaming the butter and sugar, adding the dry and the chips, and portioning it out, box or scratch. I’m never buying these again; in fact, in my future trips to Williams Sonoma, I may glide past them and secretly giggle, because I know they’re not as magnificent as their cookbook counterparts. Here’s why:

  • Flavor: Markedly better than the box mix. You have the hit of deep caramel, the slight salt which really makes the chocolate shine, and the chocolate itself –  I did NOT use Callebaut, as the box mixed does – was perfectly balanced inside it.
  • Texture: Very similar, but where the boxed cookies stayed in a perfectly round, tight shape and stayed very high, the scratch cookies spread out more by degrees: a larger, flatter cookie when baked at 325˚F, a smaller, slightly higher (though not as high as the box mix) cookie when baked at 375˚F. Lower, longer cooking time yielded a softer cookie with less crispy outer ridge; higher, hotter temperature yielded more caramel crunchiness outside but with a still-soft texture inside.
  • Chocolate: No one has yet been able to convince me that using fancypants chocolate in baked goods is anything but a show-off move; I believe in a sturdy, well-respected chocolate which melts well and highlights what you’re doing with it. These cookies only reinforced my belief. Here’s what: every one of us grew up eating chocolate chip cookies our moms made, or grandmas, or dads, whatever. They are a nostalgic favorite. With that in mind, why do we think that using hoity-toity chocolate in a cookie which harkens back childhood memories is a good move? I’m not saying use the cheap stuff, but use chocolate that’s normal, for heaven’s sake. Safe the fancy stuff for a mousse or torte, when it matters and seems more necessary. Do you know what America’s Test Kitchen consistently says is the best chocolate chip to use for classics like chocolate chip cookies? Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips. which is exactly what I used here, which is a slight upgrade from my normal chocolate chip, but it works, and it works wonderfully. There’s a beautiful, dark creaminess to the chip, with exactly the bite that dark chocolate should have, and they melt wonderfully; gooey, but not in a pervasive way. These will be the chocolate chips I use from now on, I liked them that much. The Callebaut, I’m sure, is a gorgeous chocolate, but I felt a distance from it; no childhood chord was struck, and it just sort of sat there being chocolate. Boring.
  • Balance: I touched on this above, but the balance was much better in the cookbook version. The box mix chocolate chips really gummed up the cookie inside: obviously it’s a beautiful cookie outside, but inside, there’s an intense, almost overpowering amount of chocolate. Subsequently, you’re not getting as much of that cookie caramel flavor, because of the chocolate overload, and that was a big negative for me. I felt like the cookies were being overtaken by the chocolate, which is not acceptable for a chocolate chip cookie. A double chocolate chip cookie? Totally fine: pack as much chocolate in there as you wish. But do not mess with the classic. On the other hand, the cookbook version was perfectly balanced, inside and out. nice chip mottling on the outside, but the inside was equal in terms of brown and black; chips were in every bite, but so was the cookie, and it was distinctive and flavorful and everything a cookie component should be. The outsides were crisp (but not too crisp) in both the 325˚F and 375˚F versions, so you wouldn’t be missing out on anything, no matter how you bake them. Bottom line: if you want to be punched in the face by chocolate, and prefer your chocolate chip cookies to be a chocolate chip delivery system versus actual cookie, add more chips to the cookbook version, because the cookbook version will still be better than the box.
  • Price: Seriously, don’t ever spend $20 on cookie mix. Get your head together! If you’re reading this, I have to assume you have basic things like flour and sugar, eggs, and vanilla in your kitchen on regular rotation. I had to purchase dark brown sugar (I typically keep light on hand, but not always dark), chocolate chips, and butter (although only because i was in short supply). In total, I spent $7. I had molasses, but add that in, and you still come in around $10, which is half as much as the box. Not to mention that you’ll still have almost all of your molasses and dark brown sugar left over for other things. And your result will be better, and you’ll get a little more baking basics and science practice. Priceless.

I’m not saying go out and spend $30-$50 on the Bouchon book, either, although it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re really wanting to challenge yourself and learn more about the inner workings of baking and pastry science. They’re hardcore, and the book takes everything seriously, from how to cream your butter to how best to make fancy breads (I can’t even open that chapter without involuntarily weeping in fear, but I’m working my way up to it). I will relay the recipe to you, which – because I don’t use European butter or Callebaut chocolate – is only the smallest whisper different from the original. These cookies are a marvelous example of why to consider adding the book to your collection: you have to work at it, and you may even need to do things you wouldn’t think of doing, but when you taste what these cookies are like, you’ll understand why I refer to Mr. Thomas Keller as Mr. Thomas Keller. Because he’s a mad genius, and his baked goods taste like angels fashioned them from the heavens.

fig. 3: a stack of angels.

fig. 3: a stack of angels.

I know we all have a chocolate chip cookie recipe, but these will haunt your dreams, I promise you. And sometimes it’s fun to see your trademark family cookie held up to a professional standard, because you can think of ways to make improvements on your own. Or not, but it’s always interesting to see and taste the differences.

And they will haunt your dreams, I promise.

Adapted only in the slightest way (does .1 oz of butter and some mini chocolate chips count?) from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (titled as if they were just normal, although they are supreme)

  • 1 1/2 cups + 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons unsulfered blackstrap molasses
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons + 2 1/2 teaspoons whole egg*
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chips, and they are a wonderful choice)
  • 2/3 cup miniature chocolate chips**

*You knew I wouldn’t really make you do this, correct? This was an experiment, and because I wanted the most accurate results, I did indeed beat lightly and then measure my eggs out. What I’ll tell you is that my “large egg” yielded the 3 tablespoons, and the 2 1/2 teaspoons came from an additional egg. If you don’t want to measure, I’d say you could either get approximate results from an extra-large egg, or just round slightly down to your own large egg, but i wanted to give you exactly the measurements I used. I do not believe that it’s going to make or break the cookie one way or the other.

**Because it’s not something which was easily measured, I couldn’t measure out chips versus chunks in the experiment. However, “chocolate chunks” in stores seem to always be larger than the boxed mix had, and the mix felt overloaded with chocolate. Using miniature chocolate chips here works very well for variety as well as getting that chocolate balance correct. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and molasses. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high for 2-3 minutes, until it is creamy and whipped. Add the sugar mixture and beat on medium-high for 3-4 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed, until mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl again, and add the eggs. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds until combined, then scrape down the bowl again. Add the flour mixture in 2 parts, mixing on low speed until each addition is just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand and use the spatula to scrape down into the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry patches you see. Be thorough; it’s important for an evenly baked cookie.

Stir in the chocolate chips and miniature chocolate chips with the spatula until evenly distributed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to set up.

Preheat oven to:

  • 325˚F for a larger, softer cookie with less caramel-crisp edge (cookie on the right, above)
  • 375˚F for a slightly smaller, slightly higher cookie with increased caramel-crisp edge (cookie on the left, above)

Place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using 2 1/4 inch diameter ice cream scoop, portion out 6 cookies onto the prepared sheet pan, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Place the remaining dough back in the refrigerator and bake the cookies for:

  • 15-18 minutes at 325˚F
  • 11-14 minutes at 375˚F

Remove pan from the oven and allow cookies to cool for 10 minutes on the pan, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Makes 12 cookies.

 

 

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53 Comments on "cookie throwdown: bouchon boxed mix vs. cookbook."

  1. Thank you for saving me $20. And curse you for making me crave chocolate chip cookies!

    • shannon says:

      I look forward to more collaborations with you and ridiculous Williams Sonoma products. and by “collaborations,” i mean me purchasing them with your support and encouragement. You deserve every craving you have right now.

  2. Faygie says:

    Here’s how I feel: Save the really good chocolate for the desserts that showcase chocolate. But for something like chocolate chip cookies, use the cheaper, but still decent, stuff (meaning the chocolate chips that are real chocolate, not a bunch of fillers).

    I love chocolate chip cookies, so I definitely need to give these ones a try.

    • shannon says:

      Agree! obviously never use the bargain basement chocolate, for sure, b/c you’re just asking for inferior end results, but a sturdy, moderately priced chocolate in recipes like this is all that’s needed, in my opinion. Save the good stuff for when you’re eating it straight out or using it in, yes, a more showcase dessert, or one which is particularly finicky and requires something of very high quality.

      You would love these: i mean, we’re talking perfect, classic chocolate chip cookies of your dreams here.

  3. Deb says:

    I am pleased to hear that baking from a cookbook is better than the mix! All things considered though, you did get two batches of scrumptious cookies! LOL

    • shannon says:

      Deb, i was thrilled that this was the case: if the expensive boxed mix had truly been the better one, i would have been disappointed. Thankfully that was not the case, and i did get two whole batches of delicious cookies to hang out with, so win/win. :)

  4. Jacklyn says:

    love the in-depth details and comparisons! I’m definitely craving chocolate chip cookies now, thanks!

    • shannon says:

      thank you, jacklyn! every time i look at this post, i crave chocolate chip cookies, so i feel your pain. :) nothing beats a just-out-of-the-oven cookie, for sure.

  5. Fun experiment! I find Williams Sonoma generally so overpriced that I rarely shop there. Although in truth, I need very little kitchen stuff — I have enough to outfit at least 3 normal kitchens! I’ve never been tempted by their mixes (what’s the fun in that?), so I’m glad you undertook this experiment. The results don’t surprise me at all. And I so agree with you on not wasting money on chocolate in cookies like this. My wife, who loves chocolate and loves to back, has tested virtually every chocolate out there. So we’ve both tasted them all! The traditional toll house chips work great. Although the Ghirardelli 60% cacao might be a smidge better. Maybe, depending on how my taste buds are working on that particular day. Gun post — thanks.

    • shannon says:

      Thank you, John! Williams Sonoma can be overpriced, although there are some decent deals there if you look for them or hit their sales/clearance at the right time. I find Sur la Table to be better in terms of value, most of the time.
      Normally I am not swayed at all by things like this: on that particular trip, i found myself wondering more than usual how things compared, and i’m thrilled to find out that my hypothesis was right: definitely better (and more cost effective) to do it yourself. NOW i’m tempted to try this with the other ready-made mixes they offer (Momofuku, Baked, etc) I have all the books those mixes come from, so there may be more cookie throwdowns in the future…you know, for science. ;)

  6. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Williams Sonoma, but $20 for a box of cookie mix is just ridiculous! That being said, your post made me so desperate for chocolate chip cookies that I’d probably hand over a twenty for a single warm gooey cookie at this point. Make that a $50. Good grief I’m starving – I know I’ve got a couple of tablespoons of egg around here somewhere….

    • shannon says:

      Mellissa, i did not mean to tempt you during your crazy-awesome low-carb diet right now: have i told you you’re my hero for that? b/c i could do low-carb only if like, these cookies were on the low-carb list. :) THEN i could handle it for more than 12 hours.

  7. Amrita says:

    I’m glad you did this, I’ve always been curious about those Bouchon mixes. I’ve noticed and heard from others that their bakeries are hit or miss–the NY location isn’t as great as the CA location…
    This is funny, because I’m at home in Atlanta and I just went to the new Sprinkles Bakery. I really only like their red velvet cupcake after I take it home and swipe off half the frosting. The other flavors aren’t very good though, and I’ve been disappointed with almost all of them besides the red velvet. When I first had it in Cali, I was desperate to have it again so I actually went and bought the mix from W-S…
    It made one extra cupcake over what it said it would so that made me happy, hah! I also made my own less-sweet frosting so I actually enjoyed it more.
    But I did feel very silly for buying the mix.
    One thing I learned in my research was that Candace Nelson uses Callebaut cocoa for the cupcakes, and I loved that deep, dark flavor of it. So next time, I splurged on a big bag of Callebaut cocoa from Amazon and use that for everything now, and I think my red velvet cupcakes are now just as good, if not better, than Sprinkles
    I agree with Faygie–if it’s a full-on chocolate dessert then I do see a difference when I use Callebaut/Valrhona vs something cheap and especially in terms of cocoa powder. Chocolate chip cookies are still just chocolate chips in small amounts so any type will taste delicious.
    And btw, have you had the cocoa from Kakao in StL? The bag itself smells like pure chocolate and don’t even get me started on the smell once it’s baking in the oven :)

  8. Amrita says:

    Oh! And as for the vanilla wafer butter, maybe next time try this but with vanilla wafers? http://www.bunsinmyoven.com/2012/03/27/oreo-cookie-spread/

    • shannon says:

      Amrita, i have already thought about making it: i *allegedly* bought this in order to taste/test and recreate it in my kitchen, because i saw a post once months ago (very similar to this one) on how to make any cookie into a spread, or at least giving you the basics which you can alter as needed. I’m almost afraid to know how to make it. ALMOST. :)

  9. Ashley says:

    There are SO MANY reasons to LOVE this post!
    1. You! You rocked this experiment, nailed the lab writeup (love the use of figure titles, it takes me to that special nerdy place, much like precise measurements…), conclusively proved we can and should resist those stupid (but oh-so-alluring) high end instant products in stores, gave us some valuable insight on product quality and measurement, all with magnificent wit, style, and grace. Nailed it.
    2. The science! The lengths you went to precisely measure the ingredients for best comparison purposes, the fact that you tested both temp/cook times to directly compare your results. Heck yeah!
    3. You introduced us to a cookie that will change my life, since they were fashioned by angels.
    4. See fig. 3. Are those cookies from heaven or from you? I’ll eat them either way… Seriously, I want a cookie right now.

    • shannon says:

      Ashley, it means a lot to me when you say i rock an experiment, b/c you totally would know! i throw in those “fig. 1″ captions in just for the nerds among us, myself included. I miss my old textbooks! :) I’m happy you enjoyed the rundown: i totally learned something, so i hope you did also.

      so much science! and sometimes science can be a pain in the butt, especially when you try to put a slippery, gloopy egg in a teaspoon; try it sometime. it will INFURIATE you and make you laugh at the same time. these cookies are indeed angelic: you can hear them singing to you in their heavenly voices if you listen closely. or at least that’s what i tell myself when i’m watching late-night tv and i wander into the kitchen looking for them. :)

  10. I died a little at the vanilla wafer butter. Just sayin’…

  11. I never understood the whole egg thing. I mean, I love the cookbook, but, really, do we have to measure the eggs? One egg, two egg, that’s how it should be done. Thank you for doing our dirty work, because, honestly, I don’t think I have the patience. Live and learn, right?

    • shannon says:

      I get where they’re coming from: the “egg factor” for them is them taking their original recipe and tapering it down to a normal home kitchen yield, and can appreciate them trying to maintain the highest degree of integrity in their recipes. That being said, I think their cookbook would be loads more accessible with a few user-friendly tweaks where possible: i think 1 egg here versus 1 egg and a few teaspoons could easily be adjusted with no harm done to the recipe. I wish they had done that when creating the book; certainly they would be the ones who would know the most about doing that correctly.

  12. Oh, and, hot cocoa mix. That crap stinks. I’m all about making my own mix for more than half the cost.

    • shannon says:

      totally. although the WS hot chocolate was SOLID this year, but i wouldn’t pay full price for it. the normal store mixes are totally inferior to home-blended.

  13. So this means you have two batches of cookies in front of you? You lucky girl. i am already haunted in my dreams and I am still awake. Yes,this was a good experiment. I love the ghiradelli chips and the Nestle’s chips. And they both hold a very prominent position in my pantry. Ahem, usually with the bag open. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe so thanks for posting it!

    • shannon says:

      *ahem* they’re not in front of me anymore. :) I made the first batch – thankfully – the day before we were having people over, or else i’d be carrying a few extra pounds around right now. Do you eat chips “a la carte” as well? I’m a second-generation chip-snacker…my mom is a BIG fan of that.

  14. We DID use hoity-toity on the same day! That’s so… weird. I can’t even remember what made me think to use it. Wait. Maybe I SENSED you were going to use it… Also, often my thesaurus influences me.

    Now, I’m so glad you did this experiment, as I am a Bouchon junkie and totally would have been tempted to buy anything they produce. I FINALLY got the cookbook a couple of weeks ago (angels sang when the box arrived), and I think I’ll make these cookies first. Because they don’t involve any bread shaping.

    • shannon says:

      I was shocked about our dual hoity-toityness; we must have sensed each other from afar.

      So you can cross these cookies off your list; at least the boxed version. I highly recommend using your new book to make the version found within. Did angels come in the box with the book? because typically they include a few…gift with purchase.

  15. Mimi says:

    A wonderful experiment! Thank you!

  16. Brianne says:

    The bullet point on chocolate here is probably one of the greatest things I have read on the internet ever. Ghirardelli is hoity-toity for me, and that’s as far as I’m going in my chocolate chip cookies. I grew up on Toll House. Toll House for life! Unless I make these, of course.

    • shannon says:

      Ha! I grew up on Toll House as well…nothing wrong with them at all; in fact, I think the mini chocolate chips I used in the cookbook version were the Toll House variety. They’re like the OG of chocolate chip, so feel free to use them for the minis here. Ghirardelli makes a mini i believe, but they’re hard to find, even for me.

  17. Now that’s my kind of throwdown. Go, Shannon! And go cookies!

    We, well, Rich and Calvin made chocolate chip cookies last weekend. They made them for me after my carpal tunnel surgery. The cookies were big, they were full of that special caramel flavor that I love in chocolate chip cookies (you nailed that description) and they were full of just enough Ghirardelli chips. And way too many of them found their way into my mouth. Comfort eating while my hand healed, I guess. But not good for the hips while I was sidelined from working out!

    Ghirardelli are my favorite chips. Sam’s used to sell a 3 pound back for something like $7. Now the bags are much smaller, the price is higher and they don’t always have them. :(

    What’s up with the eggs in the book? Are all the recipes in the book like that? I understand they might not like the variance in egg sizes, but does it really make that much difference? Get real, people! I’m not wasting part of an egg to be so precise!

    Shame on you for going into WS without a plan. ;) But there is no shame about the vanilla wafer butter. None at all. Own it and be proud. Or at least eat it without shame. Regret maybe, but no shame.

    Lastly, don’t fear bread. I haven’t see the recipes in the book, but bread is doable. Fancy shapes are fun – if you can play with playdough, you can play with bread. And if it doesn’t turn out, you eat the evidence. With butter. You and I can conquer your fear of the bread. Just say the word and we’ll get to baking. There should be no fear in bread baking! :)

    • shannon says:

      it’s always dangerous when someone makes you cookies during a recovery where you’re supposed to relax: so many delicious calories with no way to burn them off! you deserve them, though: hopefully it helped the healing process along (as chocolate so often does.) and Ghirardelli chips are so creamy, yes? really good…i default to toll house normally, but i love what these did here. did you notice the price increase in Ghirardelli cocoa powder? so sneaky: it went from cans to bags, less oz at almost double the price. crazy.

      yes: most of the recipes, if not all, are like that when it comes to eggs and butter and basically any measurement (you noticed several of the ingredients had “x cups plus x teaspoons,” etc.) the book explains it as them taking their store/restaurant recipes and dividing it down to a non-commercial yield. to maintain the integrity of the baked goods, they don’t alter the measurements they use for their (much larger) quantities, which breaks down to them probably using 18 eggs total in a recipe for 350 cookies, but us using 3 Tbsp + 2.5 tsp for our own dozen. I get the principle behind it, but i feel like it only matters by degrees depending on what you’re making. I respect wanting to maintain a certain control in the cookbook.

      Well, i mean, i HAD a plan, and that plan was to buy more espresso powder. They did not have espresso powder, which meant i had to look around a lot to try and maybe find it, and then i saw things, and then i had a few minutes to kill before my movie started, so then i messaged Natalie, and then she made me get them. she “encouraged” me. But i sort of knew that would happen the minute i messaged her. :) so there WAS a plan.

      You tell me that AFTER you look at the bread recipes in the Bouchon book. I don’t fear most bread anymore (though laminated doughs actually give me hives, i think), but the breads in this book require a finesse i know i do not possess yet. i don’t fear all bread; just THIS bread. :)

  18. Challenge accepted. Bring the book to lunch and well take a look. :)

  19. Emma says:

    20!! I was hoping you were kidding until I saw that you kept mentioning it. That is insane!

    How much was the vanilla wafer butter? Out of… curiosity, of course.

    • shannon says:

      not even kidding about the price: it was truly ridiculous. All the mixes are like that: the Baked and Momofuku ones are very similar in price, though i didn’t check the yield on them. But still.

      I think the vanilla wafer butter was $12.95 for a wee jar. Given the ingredients listed on the back and what i know about making any cookie into “cookie butter,” i know i could reproduce the same or very similar results for half the cost here, with a little work. although i still haven’t truly figured out the function of cookie butters, in general? as a filling in other cookies, perhaps. I don’t know…I like my cookies like cookies? so it seems vaguely sad to grind them up and add oil to them sometimes.

  20. elizabeth says:

    For $20 a box I’d expect those cookies to bake themselves, but I can’t be all that surprised that a food product at W&S would cost that much. But I love all of the work you did to really do a side-by-side comparison of the box mix and making it from scratch, including measuring out the eggs–that is dedication!

    • shannon says:

      Ha! no kidding, they should come warm and baked right from the box, i agree! Or maybe Williams Sonoma should offer to bake them up for you free of charge: they have working ovens on the premises. I should have asked. :) I am continually baffled by the people who actually do come in and buy “dinner” there; it actually happens, because when i worked there, i saw it happen. Treating WS like a grocery store is just like throwing money into the fire.
      Above all, i am dedicated to my own curiosity, and also in finding answers to questions i myself have. thankfully, this answered one of mine. I really may put the other box mixes to the test in the future, b/c it was a fun project. If i have to measure out eggs, so be it.

  21. I’m in shock that they can get away with selling cookie mix for $20, when you still have to supply all the wet ingredients yourself. You can go and buy two dozen cookies, already made, from a bakery for cheaper than that. Mind = blown.

    I love, however, that you took that crazy-expensive cookie mix and put it to the true test. From scratch is always better, even when it’s almost exactly the same — mysterious, but true.

    • shannon says:

      But they really do get away with it, and i’m convinced it’s due to the clientele i talked about who really do come there, are bored, and buy dinner. or cookie mixes, simply b/c they can and don’t feel like gathering ingredients on their own. Our williams sonomas are well-placed here in areas in which this does happen, but it blows my mind too. I play this game with myself where – if given gobs and gobs of money someday – i decide where my “line” would be in terms of what i would buy/not buy? this is one of my lines. even with massive money, i would not buy dinner and dessert at WS just b/c i didn’t feel like making it. I just wouldn’t. Curiosity is the only reason i’ve come out with food products before. Well, okay, and espresso powder. that’s actually practical though, for me, and i can’t always find it in regular stores. that’s my only food product.

      I know you love experiments, my Willow. :) it was fun! Totally going to do it again; i’ll say it’s a fun “brain break” from recipe development…switches the gears up a little bit, and that’s always refreshing.

  22. Monica says:

    Hopefully, people who buy the boxed mix go into it knowingly…I suppose it could be worth the splurge for people who want/need the convenience, although for many of us it doesn’t seem all that much more convenient than scratch. I love Ghirardelli chips and baking bars…I also love Callebaut. Ironically, I can get blocks of Callebaut cheaper than Ghirardelli bars on a pound to pound comparison. Walking around W-S can be a dangerous thing. I used to buy their boxed crepe/pancake mix until I learned how to make pancakes from scratch. I still go for the espresso powder but I’ve found a much cheaper source for the cocoa powder and buy it in bulk on line.
    Glad the Bouchon cookie recipe is so good. The book intimidates me and I begged people not to give me the book for x’mas. This cookie recipe was the only one I looked at that seemed do-able. I do love everything I’ve eaten at Bouchon Bakery though…so good!

    • shannon says:

      Monica, i hope so too, but i don’t know that they do: there’s lots of people out there, i fear, that don’t quite get the whole concept of how home baking is “worth it” or that it tastes far different from prepackaged things, even when those prepackaged things say “Bouchon” on it.
      that’s interesting about Callebaut: i’ve never found a good way to buy it inexpensively. Rather, maybe i should say that i’ve never found a good way to not buy more than i will use (since it has a limited shelf life) for a decent price. and i’m lazy, i suppose: i am a semi-spontaenous baker/cook and my ideas change like the WIND, so i can’t plan as far in advance as i would need to to order the fancy stuff. :)
      It’s a scary book, i’m not going to lie, although i really will say with conviction that some chapters are WAY easier than others. someday, maybe rent it from the library and make a few things out if it: i’ll never make everything out of it, but it’s a fabulous book to have in your collection someday. I would love to complete this experiment by eating at the actual Bouchon someday (and until then, i’m envious of all of you who have.)

  23. Haha, love this post, Shannon! I love walking thru the aisles at Williams-Sonoma but I can’t say I’d ever let myself spend $20 on a boxed mix, as curious as I may be. So I’m glad you did the detective work for me! Nate and I have eaten quite a few chocolate chip cookies in Manhattan, and we have to agree that the hands-down best ones are from City Bakery. I wonder if they have a recipe online…

    • shannon says:

      I mean, that just makes you super smart, so you should be proud of yourself for never being tempted. This was my first one, and i’m only tempted again b/c i want to see if the others fare the same. We’ll call it “research.” :) for the good of the cause, right?
      I googled the cookies from City Bakery and i did find a recipe, so i’m adding them to my list of things to make. Anyone says there’s a hands-down best chocolate chip cookie out there and i’m totally willing to try it. :)

  24. This was an awesome post. I love how much detail you got into about the differences between the (recipes and) cookies! (Thank you for testing these things out so that we don’t have to!)

    Also, $20 for a box that yields 16 cookies (*after* you add in your own butter and eggs)?!?! My first thought was, “but for the price of two boxes you could practically buy the Bouchon Bakery cookbook!” (I know that’s a pricey cookbook, as these things go, and it wasn’t high on my list to buy, but then I actually happened to win a copy from a blog giveaway, and I just LOVE it. If I had known how great it was before, I might have even splurged…)

    • shannon says:

      Allison, i’m happy you liked it! I figured i should get my money’s worth, so i made sure i figured out every single detail and difference in the batches. :)

      Agree: i’ve seen the book priced as low as $25 in some places, which means the cookie mix plus your butter and eggs basically equals the book, with roughly the same amount of work put into the cookies, AND you get all the other recipes too! And it’s a behemoth of a book, isn’t it? I got it as a surprise one christmas from a dear friend, and i love it too. Ad Hoc is also great, but even more intimidating (as if that’s possible…) :)

  25. This was so fun to read! And now I’m super curious about something: this weekend at a friend’s dinner party I had the gluten-free brownies from the Thomas Keller boxed mix (served with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel!) They were really good. Your post makes me want to get my hands on cookbook version now, and compare!

    • shannon says:

      I saw the GF brownies while there, and the one thing i think you would have to do with those (to be fair to both the boxed mix and the cookbook version) is use the GF flour blend that Bouchon uses (Cup 4 Cup, also available at WS). unless of course it’s actually a true flourless brownie and not a GF sub-in, in which case i guess you proceed normally.
      so i stopped writing this to check the book, and unless i’m missing it, i don’t see a recipe in there for brownies. interesting. well now i sort of want to know what type of brownies they are: sans flour altogether or just GF flour based. ugh! the need to know everything OVERWHELMS ME. :)

  26. Wendy says:

    A few years ago, I went on an “ultimate” choc chip cookie hunt. I baked, and we taste tested about 8 recipes that were said to be “the best”. It turns out, no real surprise, that there are many interpretations of “the best”. Some were fine but nothing special. Some weren’t even fine (A big time chef created this?) A few were hard to stop eating. The Jaques Torres NY Times recipe was the one that sent off fire works for us. For the last few years, I have been able to lay that hunt to rest. Now you have me wondering again! What if there IS a “better” tasting recipe out there and I missed it?! I guess I need to do some comparative baking just to be able to sleep at night. :) The Bouchon Bakery recipe (NOT the boxed mix) is now on the challenger list. As always, Shannon, your diligent research has informed me about things I hadn’t thought to wonder about before! :)

    • shannon says:

      I’ve always wondered that about labeling something “the best,” right? because, WHY is it really the best, and is it truly the best or just the best for you? Especially with chocolate chip cookies, which are largely a nostalgic favorite: maybe your “best” has to do with how your mom or grandma made them for you, or a favorite bakery when you were a kid, etc. and less to do with structure and flavor. maybe “the best” cookie to you would be one that’s easy to throw together because you want to make homemade cookies but don’t have a ton of time or don’t love baking? hard to say. i hesitate to say “best” most of the time b/c taste is so subjective. “one of the best” yes. best is like using always/never for me: i try to avoid it.

      PSSST: okay, so i know what recipe you’re talking about, and the history of that recipe is evidently it’s a City Bakery recipe as interpreted by Jacque Torres for the NY Times.

      I made that recipe.

      IT IS AMAZING. and i’ve actually written up huge tasting notes from it because everyone freaked out over them, myself included, so i’m posting it as a follow-up to this. Because, spoiler alert: it beats the PANTS off of TK’s recipe. And i think maybe i figured out why.

      so that’s probably coming pretty soon.

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